How Viral Artist Ciara Gan Has Been Coping with Isolation Through ‘Quarantunes’
Words by Chez Cuenca
Last year, Ciara Gan broke the internet with a DIY hand-painted graduation ball gown. Her art career has been thriving ever since. Now, with the ongoing pandemic and quarantine period, she continues to engage in art activities and create YouTube videos. Just last month, she came up with a 30-day song interpretation challenge titled “Quarantunes.” CONVO interviewed her about this project to ask how it helped her grow as an artist.
Q. How are you doing with everything that's happening right now? How is it affecting you as an artist?
A. With everything that’s happening right now, especially with the [Anti]-Terror Bill and Black Lives Matter, I’m finding it difficult to make art that is not centered around societal issues. I haven’t been making much art in the past few days.
Q. Let's talk about Quarantunes. Why did you start it, and was it something you originally came up with by yourself?
A. I actually came up with the Quarantunes challenge with my friend, Sergei. One night, we were just talking about our favorite songs and I mentioned how cool it would be to make art based on our interpretations of the songs. We both agreed that it would be fun to pick a random song every day and send it to each other. We even had a whole system using a spinning wheel app.
From then on, we’d share our drawings to each other every day before posting it on our own Instagram accounts. I really think it was a more challenging way to improve my art and expand my music taste.
Q. You mentioned on your IG that you skipped some days in this challenge. Was it challenging for you to create this type of art on the daily? Was the quarantine isolation a factor?
A. I did skip some days. After a few days of doing it, the art felt like a routine. I really don’t like forcing myself to make art if I’m not in the mood, so it was really challenging. Some days I had no energy to even interpret a song, I just wanted to be lazy and watch Netflix.
I think quarantine isolation was a huge factor to me skipping days because it was almost too weird to have a fixed task daily when ECQ broke the old routine I used to have.
Q. Since you talked about how challenging it was, what is your purpose for doing this? What made you continue the challenge?
A. I think at first it was about improving my art and sharing music with a friend.
After a while, the motivation mainly shifted to me showing art to my friend, as well as committing to the challenge itself. I didn’t wanna just give up on it because I knew that I was doing the same thing with someone else. I think it’s better to have someone you can show your art to so they can serve as your first critic and motivation to create.
Q. Since music was the main subject, what was your process in interpreting the song you chose that day into your art?
A. I would first listen to the song and read the lyrics. While drawing, I listen to the song on repeat. If the song title has a main subject, for example, “Pale Blue Eyes by the Velvet Underground,” most likely I’d build my interpretations around that. However if the song for the day was a little bit vague like “Remember Me by UMI,” I would reread the lyrics and try to understand what I’d feel from the song.
Q. With the whole process you went through with this challenge, did this make you a better artist/ creator?
A. I feel like it did make me a better artist because I was able to go out of my comfort zone, which is painting. Honestly, I haven’t picked up a sketchbook in years. I was able to search up on anatomy and even draw some objects (like the human heart) that I’ve never drawn before.
Even though I made some art that I didn’t really like, it made me realize how everything is a process and it takes time to hone one’s skills.
Q. Would you recommend this type of challenge to other artists?
A. I recommend this challenge to anyone who loves music and art. Even just sitting down and listening to a song while writing down my thoughts became a part of my artworks. Some of these songs were my favorite so it felt like I was making fan art for music!
Q. Do you plan on doing this type of challenge again? Or do you have other plans as an artist/ creator?
A. I actually was thinking of doing it again since quarantine is extended, but maybe with other forms of art like films. I also plan to make a series on my Youtube channel where I make art based on my feelings or significant experiences in my life, maybe weird dreams, unrequited love, anxiety, or even existential dread!
Q. Looking at your art account, Quarantunes wasn’t the only art you created within the quarantine period. Can you tell me more about them?
A. During the start of quarantine, I tried to occupy myself by painting on the things I wear, like my backpack, converse shoes, and denim jacket. I like to work on different surfaces because sometimes I find canvases too boring, plus I get to wear my art outside. I also had time to finish a commission that I had been making on and off for one month, as well as accept other commissions from clients.
I finally had time to make a painting for my friend’s family, which I promised to give to them on his death anniversary last year. Other than that, I’ve been working consistently on my Youtube channel and trying my best to put out DIYs and Paint With Me videos.
Q. Before we end the interview, any last words from you? Anything you'd like to promote?
A. Thank you for the interview! You can check out my artworks at @ciaraganart on Instagram and my Youtube channel: Ciara Gan.
JULY 1, 2020
This interview was conducted and condensed by Chez Cuenca.
All images courtesy of Ciara Gan